Israel offers Greece fire-fighting help as over 100 fires cripple country

Fire-retardants are on the way to Athens, which is battling over 100 fires simultaneously; more aid on standby.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

Defense Minister Benny Gantz announced Wednesday that Israel is sending fire-fighting aid to Greece with more on standby, as the country is fighting over 100 fires simultaneously, including a threat to Athens.

“I spoke with Greek Defense Minister Nicholas Pangiotopoulos in the wake of the wave of fires that is burning the country,” Gantz tweeted. “He thanked me for Israel’s offer to send fire-retardants. [And] if additional assistance is required, especially aerial assistance or rescue teams – we will be at their service.”

 

Greece is caught in the same extreme heat wave Israel has been suffering through this week, but there is no comparison in the number of wildfires. While there was one blaze on Tuesday in the Jerusalem area that took six planes and dozens of firefighting units to extinguish, Greece is fighting 80 wildfires that broke out in one day, Pangiotopoulos told his Israeli counterpart.

One fire in particular is currently threatening the northern part of the capital. Electricity has been cut off in places, making it impossible to stay in the record-breaking heat. Thousands have been ordered to leave their homes, with rescue services going door to door to make sure everyone has left.

“It’s simply hell,” said one evacuated resident according to an N12 report, which said that around 100 homes in Athens have been destroyed so far.

At least 77 people have been hospitalized, Greek officials said Wednesday, but there were no deaths as yet. In parts of the city not immediately threatened by fire, people with breathing problems or cardiac issues are being told to stay home with windows closed due to the heavy clouds of smoke polluting the air, and historical attractions such as the Acropolis were at least temporarily closed.

More than 500 firefighters and over a dozen aircraft have been called to the scene, but they are having trouble containing the blaze.

“The fire is still raging, its perimeter is very wide and the heat load is very strong,” a fire brigade official told Reuters.

According to its national emergency services, the tourist islands of Crete and Rhodes are also in “extreme danger” from fires aided by strong, hot winds, with conditions described as “very difficult.”

A fire on the island of Evia has destroyed some 2,000 hectares of forest land and at least 150 residences, with almost a dozen villages evacuated due to the continuing danger. Some of the residents were rescued off beaches by the Coast Guard, fishing boats and ferries.